David Barron is growing tea on his 160-acre Louisiana pine tree farm. He started by clearing three acres to begin growing what soon would expand into a wider project. Barron is building Fleur De Lis Tea Company as a tea destination, a place where visitors can see how tea is grown and processed.
They can sample and purchase his products. And, at the same time, they can relax and stay awhile.
“I have a small lodge and log cabin on the property now. It’s a guest house,” Barron says. “I invite people to come and stay and experience the property.”
There’s a 1.5-acre lake stocked with fish. Horseback riding is an option. So are long walks along forest trails. Soon, tea will be available as well.
“Now we’re trying to incorporate the beauty of the property with the tea experience,” he says. “With the trails, tourism is an option.”
The farm, located about 90 minutes north of New Orleans, is positioned in what Barron, 68, describes as the “picturesque” part of the state. He originally bought the land as an investment as well as for personal use, as a place he and his family could enjoy. The farm has a stand of 95,000 southern yellow pine trees harvested for timber.
“To me, it started as a hobby, a pastime but I really see the potential for it to be much more,” he said. “Once I started clearing it, I was introduced to different kinds of plants and shrubs. I started enhancing the property. That’s how the tea evolved.”
Barron’s tea evolution started in 2017 when he learned of a Louisiana State University project looking for someone with suitable land and an interest in growing tea. University experts determined the pine tree farm fit their need.
Plants were transferred to the farm and now “I have 1,000 three-year-old tea plants in the ground,” he said. “I have another 1,500 plants in the nursery and 1,000 in the greenhouse.”
The greenhouse plants will be planted in the tea garden this month.
Positive tests indicate tea quality at Fleur Di Lis will be good, Barron said. Pine needles and bark from nearby trees make the soil very acidic. “And that’s ideal for growing tea. I was really surprised how well it has been accepted.”
As the plants grow, so do the facilities to process and sell the product.
“We’re building a tea house, our processing building and a storefront (tasting room),” he said. “We are scheduled to host the US League of Tea Growers meeting in October  and we have to be up and running prior to that. By the end of next year, we’ll be at full production.”
Barron’s long-term goal is to sell Fleur De Lis tea at retail stores, online and on the farm. “We expect our strongest sales to be at the production facility where people can enjoy the full experience,” he said, noting it is too early to make sales projections.
“We feel like (the visitor experience) will be one of our main focuses due to the natural beauty of our location on 160 acres of pine forest with creeks and trails,” Barron said. “We also are looking forward to having the opportunity to educate the public on the process of the tea farm and raising awareness for the potential of the tea industry in the United States.”
Source: Fleur De Lis tea